This past Friday, Facebook started issuing vanity URLs to its 200 million-plus community. It was a big change for the social-networking company that has so far used unique numerical identifications to identify its members. Not anymore — now you can go to Facebook.com/OmMalik and friend me. […]

This past Friday, Facebook started issuing vanity URLs to its 200 million-plus community. It was a big change for the social-networking company that has so far used unique numerical identifications to identify its members.

Not anymore — now you can go to Facebook.com/OmMalik and friend me. It was such a major event that, even on the weekend, it was the talk of Twitter, Facebook’s rival social network.

Some have viewed this move towards vanity URLs as a way for Facebook to get more search engine juice. In reality, it might be Facebook’s next attack on Twitter. Facebook earlier this year launched status updates. With vanity URLs, it’s now getting into the name space business, something Twitter really excels at.

It makes sense for Facebook to do this — it is set up as a multi-purpose communication platform that lacks the ease of use of a Twitter. So why not offer the same things? By making it easy for people to identify themselves on Facebook using their real (or almost real) IDs, the company can get people to start using their Facebook handles.

A friend of mine today speculated that it is only a matter of time before Facebook starts offering an @replies service. I totally agree, and it would be the most obvious thing for Facebook to do. Just like you can point a comment to me by typing @om on Twitter, it is a safe bet you’ll be able to do the same on Facebook. It will increase the utility of Facebook as a communications platform. It will also increase the number of times one has to use Facebook, which means boosting page views and more advertising revenue. Of course, in the process, if Facebook can take a big bite out of Twitter’s growth, I am sure Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg isn’t going to complain.

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  1. But, doesn’t Twitter have a much richer ecosystem of third-party services?

    On top of that, I find that I LEARN so much more from my Twitter community (which I have conscientiously cultivated) than I can comparatively learn from my Facebook circle of friends!

  2. Ah ha! Ok now. Dave Morin’s comment that the “/ is the new @” makes way more sense!

    Brilliant move by Facebook, that is, if Zuckerberg and the 800 employees at Facebook act on implementing an @replies service! That would immediately endanger twitter of extinction.

    I welcome the unified communication potential of @replies integrated right within Facebook. Plus Facebook “feeds” (friend lists) functionality will be a huge advantage over the highly simplistic twitter web client which lacks groups.

    Twitter has really sat on their own hands for entirely too long – innovate or die. Twitter’s failure to improve the web client has really surprised me, especially since we see so many client tools and greasemonkey scripts which clearly add value; yet, twitter has not implemented these – with the exception of the @mentions behavior.

    Thanks Om, nice article!


    1. The Twitter ecosystem is extremely innovative, which takes the pressure off Twitter from having to make big changes most of the time. In lots of ways, Facebook is attempting to Twitter-ize themselves out of the corner that backed themselves into, after they failed to acquire Twitter.

      1. Albert,
        I totally agree with you

  3. Chris Messina Saturday, June 13, 2009

    / is the new @” says Dave Morin.

    You might be on to something. *wink wink*

  4. Donald Townsend Sunday, June 14, 2009

    Twitter still has one major advantage over Facebook – simplicity. It’s tweets and ony just tweets.

    1. If simplicity is twitters Advantage, then i would say that its also a great disadvantage too for twitter.
      I mean there is no service to manage your followers or non-followers, there is always a follow , no-follow game going on twitter.

      Anyway i think twitter would be in real trouble if facebook will add @replies feature too.

  5. yeah thats great i built one.

  6. Vad NU! » Blog Archive » Wrong kind of vanity Sunday, June 14, 2009

    [...] other day the craze of the web was to get ones hand on ones vanity URL on Facebook. But eventhough I scrambled to get mine, I’m wondering why we’re so busy being vain [...]

  7. / if that were the case why would they not just use @. Perhaps another example of reactionary and slow “TB” syndrome…growing “too big” too quickly into a corporate structure where decisions are made by making sure “you pissed on the rock”. Polaroid, GM, etc… have all either failed because of this corporate syndrome, Google comes out with a great idea in Wave but the usability, for the everyday user…looks like you would have to go to pilot’s school… etc… facebook is not leading it’s following now… and playing “we are more innovative than them”
    Pretty sure if they were leading they would have just adopted the @. This looks like a big, corporate, group decision to try and go after something that is leading. If facebook and other companies don’t want to go the way of myspace…or Polaroid… figure out how to not suffer from TB growth. It effects the “innovative system”.

  8. Facebook vs. Twitter Comparisons are a Waste of Time | Mark Evans Sunday, June 14, 2009

    [...] it’s not surprising to see growing fascination about Twitter vs. Facebook as Facebook extends its platform to include features such as vanity URLs [...]

  9. Web Media Daily – Sunday June 14, 2009 | Reinventing Yourself… Sunday, June 14, 2009

    [...] Do Facebook Vanity URLs Equals Kill Twitter Vol. 2? [...]

  10. I just don’t see it touching twitter in that regard. Facebook is just used differently by the common user, I call it my #my100 less than 10 have Twitter, and none use it yet. But I refuse to feed my FB stream with constant chatter. The FB world doesn’t want that.

    ^—- I did nothing but repost the tweets I sent you about 2am this morning.

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